Tuesday, 14 March 2000

Steven Saylor: Rubicon (1999)

Edition: Robinson, 1999
Review number: 451

In only seven novels together with a few short stories, Saylor has covered thirty years of the career of his detective, Gordianus the Finder, taking him into his sixties. This is quite rapid progress for a series of detective novels, which often have central characters who hardly age at all over thirty years' worth of writing. In Saylor's series, the character has been closely if sordidly involved in a datable sequence of historical events, which has forced him to age at a sensible rate. He is now reaching quite a formidable age for a Roman, and it will be interesting to see what Saylor does next.

Rubicon is concerned with the beginning of the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, which would eventually lead to the end of the Republic and the establishment of the Empire. As Caesar crosses the Rubicon river into Italy with his troops - something a provincial general was forbidden to do - Rome succumbed to fear over his intentions, government and economy breaking down as thousands fled the city. Pompey also leaves, to organize his own troops, but pays a visit to Gordianus before doing so. He arrives at a rather awkward time, to discover the garrotted body of his nephew and heir Numerius Pompey in the garden. This naturally puts Gordianus in a difficult position, and he is forced to try to find the murderer.

This puzzle is quite difficult, but in fact much of the book is concerned with Gordianus' atttempts to rescue members of his family from the consequences of the civil war. Like all the Gordianus novels (I don't really like the Roma Sub Rosa title of the series), Roman politics is really what interests Saylor in Rubicon, and the puzzle takes a secondary place.

No comments: